Hand-picked apples harvested at Boyne Grove Fruit Farm outside Drogheda make up the sole ingredient of Dan Kelly’s, a popular new Irish craft cider. Olan McNeece tells us more about the family run enterprise.
How did you get involved in cider?
We grow apples as a family business and we have always made cider for personal consumption. Some of our staff through the years used to make and consume quite a bit! We have lots of different varieties of apples on the farm and it is always interesting to see what type of cider they make.
You started selling cider in 2013 even though the Boyne Grove Fruit Farm has been in existence since 1962. What prompted this decision?
I wanted to start selling cider more than 20 years ago. My father was less keen on the idea of a young man surrounded by lots of alcohol! Perhaps it was for the best — who knows how that might have turned out! We started working on our blend from 2011 onwards, and we started selling in 2013. I saw that the craft beer sector was beginning to be appreciated by the consumer and felt that craft cider could be as well. It is really driven by the consumer wanting change and variety — trying to break in to the market against the larger players just isn’t possible unless the consumer wants something different.
What’s been the greatest learning curve to date?
Our style of cider is very uncomplicated in its production. Wild yeasts can be very unpredictable so consistency is a problem. The consumer will tolerate a small amount of change in your product but not much. We’ve had to learn a lot as demand grew.
What have you done to distinguish and amplifying your brand through product content, messaging, marketing etc….?
We have really built our marketing strategy around social media, community events, some festivals and craft drinks shows. Our message is simple — we are producing ciders with apples from our family farm, and other quality growers, without the addition of chemicals. We will continue to expand our range with the same ethos.
What trends did you notice in the marketplace in 2017 and any predictions for 2018?
We are seeing craft producers really experimenting with flavours and fusions. We have worked with Kinnegar Brewery on a kettle sour using our apple juice — it’s called “Olan’s Tart”. The White Hag Brewery has worked with MacIvors cider. I feel this will continue into the future and will result in interesting drinks coming on to the market in 2018.
A favourite cider tipple besides your own?
I tried a Swiss cider whilst travelling and thought it was absolutely amazing. My wife is from Spain and there are some really interesting ciders across the north coast. Closer to home, Mark Jenkinson’s Cockagee Cider hits the spot! He is a fellow member of The Boyne Valley Food Series. There are some terrific ciders to be found on the shelves now!